Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


The Lost Souls’ Hotel
by [?]

Mitchell looked through his old pocket-book–more by force of habit than anything else–and turned up a circular from Tattersall’s. And that reminded him.

“Do you know what I’d do, Harry,” he said, if I won Tattersall’s big sweep, or was to come into fifty or a hundred thousand pounds, or, better still, a million?”

“Nothing I suppose,” I said, “except to get away to Sydney or some cooler place than this.”

“I’ll tell you what I’d do,” said Mitchell, talking round his pipe. “I’d build a Swagman’s Rest right here.”

“A Swagman’s Rest?”

“Yes. Right here on this very God-forsaken spot. I’d build a Swagman’s Rest and call it the Lost Souls’ Hotel, or the Sundowners’ Arms, or the Half-way House to —, or some such name that would take the bushmen’s fancy. I’d have it built on the best plans for coolness in a hot country; bricks, and plenty of wide verandas with brick floors, and balconies, and shingles, in the old Australian style. I wouldn’t have a sheet of corrugated iron about the place. And I’d have old-fashioned hinged sashes with small panes and vines round ’em; they look cooler and more homely and romantic than the glaring sort that shove up.

“And I’d dig a tank or reservoir for surface water as big as a lake, and bore for artesian water–and get it, too, if I had to bore right through to England; and I’d irrigate the ground and make it grow horse-feed and fruit, and vegetables too, if I had to cart manure from Bourke. And every teamster’s bullock or horse, and every shearer’s hack, could burst itself free, but I’d make travelling stock pay–for it belongs to the squatters and capitalists. All carriers could camp for one night only. And I’d–no, I wouldn’t have any flowers; they might remind some heart-broken, new-chum black sheep of the house where he was born, and the mother whose heart he broke–and the father whose grey hairs he brought down in sorrow to the grave–and break him up altogether.”

“But what about the old-fashioned windows and the vines?” I asked.

“Oh!” said Mitchell, “I forgot them. On second thought, I think I would have some flowers; and maybe a bit of ivy-green. The new chum might be trying to work out his own salvation, and the sight of the roses and ivy would show him that he hadn’t struck such a God-forgotten country after all, and help strengthen the hope for something better that’s in the heart of every vagabond till he dies.”

Puff, puff, puff, slowly and reflectively.

“Until he dies,” repeated Mitchell. “And, maybe,” he said, rousing himself, “I’d have a little room fixed up like a corner of a swell restaurant, with silver and napkins on the table, and I’d fix up a waiter, so that when a broken-down University wreck came along he might feel, for an hour or so, something like the man he used to be. But I suppose,” Mitchell reflected, “he wouldn’t feel completely his old self without a lady friend sitting opposite to him. I might fix up a black gin for him, but I suppose he’d draw the colour line. But that’s nonsense.

“All teamsters and travellers could camp there for one night only. I’d have shower-baths; but I wouldn’t force any man to have a bath against his will. They could sit down to a table and have a feed off a table-cloth, and sleep in sheets, and feel like they did before their old mothers died, or before they ran away from home.”

“Who? The mothers?” I asked.

“Yes, in some cases,” said Mitchell. “And I’d have a nice, cool little summer-house down near the artificial lake, out of earshot of the house, where the bullock-drivers could sit with their pipes after tea, and tell yarns, and talk in their own language. And I’d have boats on the lake, too, in case an old Oxford or Cambridge man, or an old sailor came along–it might put years on to his life to have a pull at the oars. You remember that old sailor we saw in charge of the engine back there at the government tank? You saw how he had the engine?–clean and bright as a new pin–everything spick-and-span and shipshape, and his hut fixed up like a ship’s cabin. I believe he thinks he’s at sea half his time, and shoving her through it, instead of pumping muddy water out of a hole in the baking scrubs for starving stock. Or maybe he reckons he’s keeping her afloat.”